Toking While White: A Get Out of Jail Card

Article by Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail

Toking while white: A get out of jail card. ELIZABETH RENZETTI

As a middle-aged woman, you get used to becoming invisible. Bartenders no longer see you, never mind taxi drivers. It’s not surprising to have your partner turn to you with a start and say, “Whoa! I forgot you were there.” It’s tempting to hold up your hand to the sun to see whether it’s become transparent, and then seek solace in a nice glass of Sancerre.

Or possibly a gram of Green Crack, which – despite its sinister name – is just a popular strain of pot. Perhaps it was Green Crack I was smoking along with my other middle-aged lady friends outside a downtown Toronto restaurant not too long ago. I’m not sure; my memory isn’t what it once was, for some reason.

Anyway, there we were, smoking a joint on the street, talking about books or college tuitions or what we were watching on Netflix. The usual conversations we have when we smoke joints, which is fairly often. The bartender inside continued to ignore us, and possibly would have left work that night never noticing we’d gone. More important, the police were ignoring us too. No one stopped, questioned or arrested us. The neighbours didn’t call the cops on this bunch of nicely dressed, middle-aged ladies. This is the experience of toking while white.

Toking while white also allows you to sit on a hillside at a Dolly Parton concert smoking a joint (been there) or to stand with an equally middle-aged stranger outside a literary gala while she hands you her vape and tells you about her son’s wedding (done that). Along the way, I’ve worried more about the piercing scorn of judgy moms than the cold hand of the criminal justice system. In other words, toking while white is entitlement, and like most entitlement, it’s pernicious and unthinking and corrosive.

In the same way I’ve never been arrested at Starbucks while waiting for a friend, I’ve also never been arrested for rolling a Camberwell carrot outside an art gallery (and if I can just lay low for a few more months, I never will). The people who are disproportionately arrested for possession of weed in Canada are not middle-aged white women, you may not be surprised to learn. They are, as a Vice investigation reported this week, much more likely to be black and Indigenous people.

Read the full article here.


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